Rob’s Rundown: Week of June 22 – June 26, 2020
This week, Senator Portman secured a number of key wins for Ohio in the Senate FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). For instance, the legislation includes billions of dollars in funding for Abrams Tanks, Stryker Vehicles and the Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system - all of which are produced at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima. It includes tens of millions of dollars to support Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, as well as $15 million for the construction of a new Guard Readiness Center in Columbus, Ohio. And it confirms America’s commitment to Ukraine by authorizing $250 million in security assistance to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. In addition, the bill includes a Portman proposal to require DoD to develop a new, multi-year strategy to support the development of Ukraine’s military forces, increasing its capability and capacity and providing a resource plan for US security assistance.
In addition, Portman praised the Senate’s unanimous passage of his bipartisan legislation to rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the agency’s test facility in Sandusky, Ohio, after Neil Armstrong.
On Friday, Portman visited the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument to see firsthand the site's deferred maintenance needs and to discuss his bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act to address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects across the National Park System. Shortly thereafter, Portman visited Bruns General Contracting and met with company leadership and employees to discuss the benefits of their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan made possible thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act, which Senator Portman supported and President Trump signed into law.
This week Portman joined Mornings with Maria on Fox Business to discuss the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, legislation he introduced last week to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property developed at U.S. colleges and universities. Portman also spoke with Neil Cavuto on Fox News about the legislation to safeguard American innovation and his proposal to incentivize individuals to return to the workplace by providing $450 a week for individuals returning to work, meaning they’d receive their wages plus this $450 bonus.
Finally, Portman voted in favor of the motion to proceed to a Senate debate on the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, legislation that would help improve law enforcement around the country through better training, increased transparency, and stronger accountability. The reforms outlined in the bill are designed to better address racial disparities in our justice system and promote stronger communities that treat each other with dignity and respect. Senate Democrats voted against the motion to proceed, blocking debate on the legislation as well as the open amendment process.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
On Fox Business, Portman Highlights New Legislation to Combat National Security Threats from Chinese Communist Party
In an interview with Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, Senator Portman, as chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), highlighted various PSI investigations that he has led that have exposed the national security threats posed by China. Specifically, Portman discussed the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, legislation he introduced last week to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property developed at U.S. colleges and universities. Portman, led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it.
Portman also discussed the need for foreign competition for China’s state-owned telecommunications companies considering PSI’s recent PSI’s bipartisan investigation and report detailing the national security threat posed by Chinese state-owned telecommunications carriers operating in the United States and how the federal government provided little-to-no oversight for nearly twenty years. As demonstrated in recent PSI investigations, China routinely exploits the American education and scientific research sectors to further its national interest and engages in cyber-attacks against U.S. companies, like Equifax and Marriott.
NIH Investigation Shows 93% of Scientists Failed to Disclose Ties to China, Highlighting Need for Portman’s Bill to Prevent Theft of U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Research & Innovation
Recently, Science Magazine and the Washington Free Beacon reported that 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigation into American taxpayer-funded grant recipients’ failure to disclose financial ties to foreign governments, particularly China. In fact, according to the NIH investigation more than 90 percent of the scientists had ties to China. This highlights the need for Senator Portman’s bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act which will crack down on the theft of intellectual property at federally funded research institutions and universities by China and foreign governments.
Science Magazine reported on the NIH investigation that resulted in the resignation or firing of 54 scientists for ties to foreign governments saying:
Some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH grantees to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. For 93% of the 189 scientists whom NIH has investigated to date, China was the source of their undisclosed support.
Several bills pending in Congress seek to limit that threat in various ways, including by limiting the flow of scientific talent from China to the United States, and by restricting access to federally funded research that provides a foundation for cutting-edge technologies and new industries.
The Washington Free Beacon highlighted Portman’s year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs”, China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded research and IP to China for their own economic and military gain. The Safeguarding American Innovation Act is the product of that investigation and will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation.
Congress has been concerned about stolen U.S. scientific research for some time. A 2019 investigation by the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Investigations found that Chinese scientists enlisted in the country’s Thousand Talents [Plan,] which recruits overseas researchers to bring their talents back to China, “set up ‘shadow labs’ in China … and, in some cases, transfer U.S. scientists’ hard-earned intellectual capital.”
Three quarters of the scientists found to have hidden their ties to foreign governments like China had active NIH grants.
Research leaders, hospitals, and colleges and universities in Ohio have announced their support for Senator Portman’s bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and IP developed at U.S. colleges and universities.
Portman, Brown Stand Up for American Tire Workers, Urge Trade Commission to Ensure U.S. Trade Remedy Laws are Fully Enforced
Today Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to side with American workers and fully and fairly enforce U.S. trade remedy laws. In a bipartisan letter to the ITC, Portman and Brown led their colleagues in pressing ITC to give full and fair consideration to the United Steelworker’s petitions in these cases of unfairly traded imports. Portman and Brown led this letter with Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Todd Young (R-IN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Boozman (R-AR), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Doug Jones (D-AL).
“U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports. We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced,” the senators wrote.
For years, United Steelworkers at tire companies including Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio, have found themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage due to unfairly traded foreign imports. The United Steelworkers’ trade petitions seeks to secure relief for their members in the tire industry to ensure the U.S. tire industry can compete on a level playing field.
Full text of the letter is available here.
On Fox News, Portman Highlights Bipartisan Legislation to Protect US Research Enterprise, the Need for a Return to Work Bonus & Securing a Phase Two Trade Deal with China
On Fox News’ Your World, Cavuto, Portman, as chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), highlighted the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, legislation he introduced last week to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property developed at U.S. colleges and universities. Portman, led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it.
In addition, Portman discussed his proposal to incentivize individuals to return to the workplace, which will be critical to a robust economic recovery as the country continues to reopen. He highlighted his proposal of providing $450 a week for individuals returning to work, meaning they’d receive their wages plus this $450 bonus. Portman believes this proposal would ensure that there are as few situations as possible where staying on unemployment is more lucrative than returning to work. According to recent research from the American Action Forum and from the University of Chicago, between 60-70 percent of individuals currently on unemployment are making more than they did in their prior job thanks to this federal supplement. Furthermore, the bottom 20 percent of wage earners are making, on average, double what they made in the workforce through this UI program. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow praised Senator Portman’s work on this issue and said the White House is considering the proposal as discussions commence about the next COVID-19 legislative package.
Finally, Portman also emphasized the importance of continuing to work on a Phase Two trade deal with China. Earlier this year, Portman applauded the Trump administration for their efforts in securing a Phase One trade deal with China and attended the signing ceremony of the agreement at the White House.
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Portman Announces Senate FY 2021 NDAA Authorizes $15 Million for National Guard Readiness Center in Columbus
Portman today announced the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes $15 million for the construction of a new Guard Readiness Center in Columbus, Ohio. This new construction will replace aging and inadequate facilities, and serve as the single gathering point for all assigned Ohio National Guard troops, and a mobilization point for State and Federal activation of troops. This project will help the Ohio National Guard meet its readiness objectives to support the people of Ohio and their federal activation missions.
“The men and women of the Ohio National Guard work hard to keep us safe and secure and serve our communities,” said Portman. “As we have seen in just the past few months, the National Guard not only supports our security efforts but has played a critical role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic that has affected all of our lives. As they continue to do important work around Ohio, I’m pleased that the Senate’s NDAA includes this funding to construct a new Readiness Center that will support the operations of the Ohio National Guard troops in times of crisis.”
Portman Announces Senate’s FY 2021 NDAA Expresses Sense of Senate Urging Development of Hypersonic Technologies
Portman today announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) expresses the Sense of the Senate that hypersonic technologies are important to our national security, and that the Department of Defense (DOD) should take actions to improve ground-based test facilities, such as wind tunnels. Portman believes that the NASA Plum Brook facility in Sandusky, Ohio, is well-equipped to step into this role and help advance the DOD mission.
“Plum Brook houses world-class facilities in Sandusky that have conducted critical and innovative ground tests for the international space community,” said Portman. “This bill sends a strong signal that Plum Book should be considered a prime candidate for increased ground-based hypersonic test facilities in the future. I am pleased that the NDAA recognizes the importance of this technology, and will fight to ensure Plum Brook is considered to be the site of increased testing.”
Portman Announces Senate’s FY 2021 NDAA to Allow National Air Force Museum to Receive Name-Bearing Gifts of Real Property
Portman announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes language enabling United States Military Museums to accept gifts of real property that have a specific name attached to the donation.
“The National Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force base is among the world’s premier military aviation museums. Its vast collection of historic aircraft attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year,” said Portman. “By allowing military museums to accept gifts of real property that bear a specific name, this bill will enable the National Air Force Museum, and all other military museums, to accept contributions in a more efficient and effective manner – ensuring that the museum will continue to grow and stand as a source of inspiration for future generations of explorers and aviators.”
Portman Announces Senate NDAA Requires State Department & DoD to Develop Report to Enhance the Capabilities of the Ukraine Military
Portman, co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires the Department of State and Department of Defense to report on the capability and capacity requirements of military forces of Ukraine. Portman fought for the inclusion of this report in the measure. In analyzing the shortfalls in Ukraine’s military, State and DoD would then be required to develop a multi-year strategy to help Ukraine address them and enhance their military capabilities.
“This reporting requirement is another way for the United States to send a clear and unequivocal message that America stands with the Ukrainian people in their struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future in the face of Russian aggression,” said Portman. “As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, I look forward to the passage of this bipartisan legislation to support Ukraine and help them improve their military and defend themselves against Russian hostility.”
Portman Announces FY 2021 NDAA Includes $23.5 Million for Hydrant Fuel System at Wright Patterson Air Force Base
Portman announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $23.5 million in funding for a hydrant fuel system for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This project will replace the aging fuel system and will bring it into compliance with DoD’s standards. This funding will help to facilitate the DLA’s fuel operations and make them more efficient. Portman released the following statement:
“This funding will support a new hydrant fuel system to refuel our aircraft and support the mission of the Defense Logistics Agency. I believe it will make a difference to our Airmen and Air Force Civilians at Wright-Patt and to our troops around the world who rely on the DLA for their equipment and resources. DLA plays a critical role in helping to ensure our brave men and women on the frontlines have the resources they need.”
Portman Announces Senate FY 2021 NDAA Includes Funding for Abrams Tanks, Stryker Vehicles and Maneuver Short Range Air Defense
Portman announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $1.033 billion in funding to upgrade 89 Abrams tanks, $392 for Abrams modifications, which will continue the production of the M1A2 SEPv3 upgraded Abrams tanks at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima in order to ensure that our forward deployed soldiers have tanks with the most cutting-edge capabilities. The bill also includes $847 million for upgrading Stryker Vehicles and $392 million for modifying the Stryker A1 Vehicles. Also included is $378.6 million to produce 72 Stryker chassis to support the Army’s Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) program. Portman has been a strong advocate for both Lima and the Abrams and Stryker programs, ensuring that our men and women of the military have the best and most lethal weapons systems while keeping good, high-paying jobs in Lima.
“This funding is a big win for Lima and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC), which supports our troops both at home and around the globe. The newest version of the Abrams tank, the M1A2 SEPv3 is a vital investment for our soldiers to meet the realities highlighted in the latest National Defense Strategy and they come off the line at JSMC in Lima. This funding will ensure that more tanks are produced at Lima and get to our forward deployed soldiers. This is a significant improvement when not long ago the workforce was only funded for one tank per month. This is important for our armored formations and for Lima and its irreplaceable workforce.”
“I am also pleased the NDAA will increase funding for producing Stryker A1 vehicles. This authorization will help provide long-term stability to the industrial base and ensure our soldiers are rapidly provided with the most capable and survivable vehicle coming off the line.”
“The Army has developed the M-SHORAD program to deal with the new, short range air defense threats on the modern battlefield. It is based off the highly capable Stryker platform that is produced in Lima. This is good news for the Army and the world-class workforce in Lima.”
Portman Addresses Dayton Development Coalition Virtual Fly-In, Highlights Dayton-Area Priorities Included in FY 2021 NDAA
Portman addressed the Dayton Development Coalition’s virtual fly-in and discussed the various wins for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) and the Dayton area in the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Portman released the following statement:
“I was pleased to speak with the Dayton Development Coalition today as we just received great news for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and our nation in the FY 2021 NDAA. Not only is there a well-deserved three percent pay raise for the troops, but the bill authorizes $23.5 million in funding for a hydrant fuel system for the Defense Logistics Agency at WPAFB; $35 million for an Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program project at WPAFB to help make the base more energy-efficient; and $15 million for the construction of a new Guard Readiness Center in Columbus. I also championed language that was included to encourage the United States Air Force to prioritize military construction funding for small arms ranges in their budget request for FY 2022, as well as language to allow the National Museum of the Air Force, and other military museums, to accept gifts of real property that have a specific name attached to the donation. This is great news for everyone who serves at Wright-Patt and the surrounding communities. I’m pleased that the FY 2021 NDAA recognizes that Wright-Patt is a national leader in delivering world-class national security capabilities.
“We also discussed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how the Dayton community is focused on safely reopening the local economy. I was encouraged to hear about the local efforts already safely underway in the region, including how they are already taking advantage of some of the relief we have provided at the federal level. I appreciated the opportunity to address today’s fly-in and will share the insights from the Dayton Development Coalition members with my colleagues as we continue to work to help individuals, families, and small businesses stay afloat during this public health emergency so we can get our economy back to full strength as soon as safely possible.”
Portman Statement on Senate Democrats Blocking Debate on Meaningful Police Reforms
Portman voted in favor of the motion to proceed to a Senate debate on the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, legislation that would help improve law enforcement around the country through better training, increased transparency, and stronger accountability. The reforms outlined in the bill are designed to better address racial disparities in our justice system and promote stronger communities that treat each other with dignity and respect. Senate Democrats voted against the motion to proceed, blocking debate on the legislation as well as the open amendment process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had committed to an open floor debate and amendment process, yet Democrats voted to obstruct progress on police reform legislation anyway. Portman released the following statement:
“The fact that Senate Democrats voted to block debate and an open amendment process on meaningful police reforms is outrageous and unacceptable. If Democrats believed the underlying bill should be amended, they would have had every opportunity to do so yet instead they chose to obstruct and block progress on this issue. Over the last month we’ve continued to see egregious examples of injustice and violence against people of color. Americans want to see progress on meaningful police reform. The JUSTICE Act takes responsible steps toward improving the collection of data on violence by and against law enforcement, providing funding to increase the use of body cameras, and increasing transparency and accountability while strengthening and reforming police training methods and hiring practices. I hope my Democratic colleagues will reconsider their decision and join us in working towards real reform on this issue.”
Portman Announces Senate FY 2021 NDAA Includes Key Improvements to Americans’ Commitment to Ukraine Assistance
Portman, co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that the Senate FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine to fund additional training, lethal and non-lethal equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. Specifically, $125 million is designated specifically for lethal assistance, an increase of $75 million from FY20. In addition, the bill includes a Portman proposal to require DoD to develop a new, multi-year strategy to support the development of Ukraine’s military forces, increasing its capability and capacity and providing a resource plan for US security assistance. This report will better synchronize and prioritize future US security assistance to Ukraine by identifying gaps and shortfalls that need to be addressed. Furthermore, Senator Portman looks forward to filing an amendment to congratulate Ukraine on its ascension into NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partner program, a crucial step toward Ukraine achieving full NATO membership. Finally, this bill extends Portman’s provisions, included in previous NDAAs, which condition large portions of U.S. security assistance on critical defense sector reforms in Ukraine, including strengthening civilian control of the military and improving sustainment capabilities, inventory management, and security of sensitive foreign technologies.
“This bill sends a clear message that America stands with the Ukrainian people in their struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future in the face of Russian aggression,” said Portman. “The Ukrainian military has fought bravely against Russian aggression in the Donbas and has made tremendous strides. I have long advocated for the development of a comprehensive, multiyear security assistance plan and I am glad to see that the NDAA directs DoD and DoS to look for ways to help the Ukrainian military continue their upward trajectory in proficiency. I have encouraged the Ukrainian government to sustain their efforts on eliminating corruption, and have authored past legislation tying assistance to continued anti-corruption reform. Those conditions remain in place and I look forward to seeing President Zelensky’s government continue move forward on an anti-corruption agenda. I was also pleased to see the NDAA recognized Ukraine’s commitment to NATO and their inclusion in the Enhanced Opportunities Partner Program. The United States Congress will continue to make sure the Ukrainian military has the capabilities it needs to defend its sovereign territory—on the land, sea, and air. As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, I will continue to lead efforts in the Senate to ensure the Ukrainians have the equipment, resources and capabilities they need to defend themselves against Russian aggression.”
At Hearing, CDC Expert Agrees with Portman that Consistent, Accountable Leadership is Needed Within Interagency Groups Handling Strategic National Stockpile
At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, former Director for the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) Dr. Julie Gerberding agreed with Portman that there is a need for consistent and accountable leadership within interagency groups, especially with regard to handling the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). Portman believes that performance measures must be put in place to ensure individuals are held accountable and the SNS functions effectively.
In addition, Portman highlighted the need to bring back production of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the U.S. in order to ensure that in instances of a national emergency, the Strategic National Stockpile is stocked and the U.S. does not have to rely on foreign governments for resources. Portman has been instrumental in helping to facilitate PPE production in Ohio-based companies, including encouraging the USTR to implement key tariff exclusions necessary for Gojo in Akron to be able to distribute larger quantities of Purell hand sanitizer, a key tool in slowing the spread of the virus. Portman also helped secure approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow Cleveland-based SecondBreath to begin producing ventilators for shipment across Ohio and the country and facilitated a donation by Dublin-based Cardinal Health of 2.2 million non-surgical gowns to the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile.
Portman Announces FY 2021 Senate NDAA Includes Energy Resilience Funding for Wright Patterson Air Force Base NASIC Facility
Portman announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $35 million for an Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP) project at Wright-Patt. The ERCIP funds projects that improve the energy resilience and energy and water efficiency at DOD installations. This intelligence facility central utility plant project at Wright-Patt will help make the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) more energy efficient. Portman released the following statement:
“I am pleased that the Senate NDAA includes funding for this ERCIP project, which will help make NASIC more energy efficient. This project will help address deficiencies in the existing cooling system, which have led to increasing equipment downtime and data loss in the last few years. I believe it will make a difference to our Airmen and Air Force Civilians at Wright-Patt.”
Portman Announces Senate FY 2021 NDAA Contains Critical Reforms for Military Artificial Intelligence Readiness
Portman announced the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and its accompanying committee report take important steps in increasing our military’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities by including provisions from his bipartisan Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act.
“The complexity of 21st century warfare requires that our armed forces be both technically skilled and proficient with their weapons,” said Portman, co-founder of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus. “This bill takes important steps towards that goal by implementing parts of my bipartisan Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act, which includes a number of key recommendations by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. These policy changes will help our military attract top AI talent and improve our military’s effectiveness with respect to AI decision-making.”
Portman Announces Senate FY 2021 NDAA Report Highlights Importance of Funding For Small Arms Ranges
Portman announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) report includes language encouraging the United States Air National Guard to prioritize military construction funding for small arms ranges in their budget request for FY 2022.
"We have a responsibility to ensure our brave men and women in uniform have access to the training facilities and equipment they need to prepare for future operations,” said Portman. “By urging the Air National Guard to prioritize small arms ranges in their upcoming budget request, the United States Senate is sending a clear message that these training facilities are vital to readiness efforts and should receive sufficient funding.”
Portman: Senate FY 2021 NDAA Includes Wins for Ohio, Increases Troop Pay, Supports Ukraine Security Assistance
Portman announced that the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), includes a number of initiatives to support Ohio’s military installations, increase troop pay, and provide additional assistance to Ukraine. He released the following statement:
“This defense bill provides needed resources to continue rebuilding our military, support our troops, and provide upgrades and support to Ohio’s defense installations. Our country faces significant security threats around the world, and this bipartisan legislation will help ensure that our soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and servicemen and women in the Space Force have the vital resources they need to accomplish their national security missions. Ohio is home to some of the best and brightest serving our country, and some of our nation’s premier defense installations and this legislation provides for their continued success. This bill also takes additional steps I’ve fought for to help Ukraine defend themselves against Russian aggression. This security assistance package sends a clear message that America continues to stand with the Ukrainian people in their struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future.”
Portman, Brown Praise Unanimous Senate Passage of Legislation to Rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station Test Facility After Neil Armstrong
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the Senate unanimously passed their bipartisan legislation to rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the agency’s test facility in Sandusky, Ohio, after Neil Armstrong. Portman and Brown introduced the legislation last September. Plum Brook is part of the NASA Glenn Research Center. It houses unique world-class facilities that conduct critical and innovative ground tests for the international aerospace community.
“From his service as a Navy fighter pilot, to his courageous experiments as a test pilot, to his space exploration and first step on the surface of the Moon, Neil Armstrong left an indelible mark in mankind’s history of flight. In all his accomplishments, he considered himself first and foremost a test pilot who pushed the boundaries of what was possible in the air and in space,” Senator Portman said. “Neil was a humble and patriotic Ohioan who believed the honor of serving his country was a reward in and of itself. That’s why, when I asked him the year before he passed away whether he wanted me to pursue naming Plum Brook after him, he demurred. But he was a strong supporter of Plum Brook Station and the important simulations and testing being done there, and I believe it is precisely because of his humility, coupled with his unparalleled accomplishments, that the renaming is appropriate. This is a fitting tribute to Armstrong‘s amazing accomplishments in air and in space, and I’m proud my colleagues unanimously supported this legislation.”
On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses Consequences of Inaction on Multiemployer Pension Reform
On the Senate floor, Portman discussed the current multiemployer pension crisis that threatens the retirements of millions of Americans, and the consequences of ongoing inaction. The federally run guarantor of those plans, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, is set to become insolvent within five years, further jeopardizing the retirement security of at least 1.4 million Americans.
Portman also underscored the need for any bipartisan multiemployer pension reform legislation to address both the immediate crisis with respect to the PBGC, and the longer-term structural issues that created the conditions for the persistent underfunding of multiemployer pension plans in the first place. He also emphasized that any solution to address the immediate crisis must involve a shared responsibility approach, with contributions from not just general public funds, but also employers and plan participants within the multiemployer pension system.
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Portman Announces $2.6 Million FEMA Grant to University Hospitals Health System to Help Continue to Provide Coronavirus Treatment, Testing, & Protective Measures
Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for announcing a grant that provides $2.6 million in federal funding to University Hospitals Health System, Inc. for Emergency Protective Measures. FEMA awarded these grants from replenished funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act, which Senator Portman supported and President Trump signed into law.
“This FEMA funding is great news for University Hospitals Health System because it will help them continue to provide the treatment and health care that Ohio desperately needs during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” said Portman. “This pandemic has created significant and unprecedented challenges across Ohio and these grants will provide much-needed additional support for our response and recovery efforts. I will continue to work with my bipartisan colleagues in Congress to ensure that Ohio has the necessary resources during these uncertain times.”
Portman Announces $2.46 Million in Federal Grants to Help Health Care Facilities Across Ohio Provide Telehealth Services
Portman announced that the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau awarded $2.46 million in telehealth grants to five health care facilities in Ohio that will use this funding to provide telehealth services targeted at low-income patients so that they can receive medical care in more flexible settings. The exact funding amount and details of the facilities telehealth services can be found below.
This grant award follows previous announcements of telehealth grants for Ohio, including one announced in April for the Health Partners of Western Ohio located in Lima, Ohio. Earlier last month, three facilities received nearly $1 million in funding and four facilities received nearly $800,000 in funding, earlier this month six facilities received $1.8 million in funding, and an addition six facilities received $1.1 million. Last week, nearly $1 million was distributed to facilities in Ohio. These grants come from funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Portman supported and President Trump signed into law. Portman released the following statement:
“These new federal grants are good news for folks in Ohio. During this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, telehealth has become a vital service for Ohioans to receive the health care consultations they need without having to leave the safety of their homes. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure Ohioans have the resources they need during these uncertain times.”
Portman, Brown, Ohio Delegation Urge Air Force Secretary to Station Headquarters for U.S. Space Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and the entire Ohio Congressional delegation, are urging U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett to locate the headquarters for United States Space Command (USSPACECOM) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) in Dayton, Ohio. In a letter sent to Secretary Barrett, the delegation outlined Wright-Patterson’s unique preparedness to headquarter the future U.S. Space Command, including its robust and diversified workforce, location and tenant commands.
“As an Ohio delegation, we write to express our support to locate the US Space Command headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB)… We believe WPAFB’s robust and diversified workforce, location and tenant commands are uniquely suited to support the US Space Command mission and make the base the logical location for the headquarters,” the members wrote. “WPAFB’s workforce of world-class engineers, experienced programs managers, innovative logistics managers, knowledgeable space specialists, change leading contracting personnel, and nationally recognized space intelligence analysts would provide the US Space Command with an exceptional supporting staff.”
In addition to WPAFB’s central location in the United States, they also host the Air Force Material Command and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) headquarters. It also possesses the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), whose core missions of air and space intelligence and imagery are central tenets to the US Space Command mission.
A copy of the letter can be found here.
Portman Statement on Lordstown Motors Reveal of Its Endurance All-Electric Pickup Truck
Portman released the following statement on the reveal of Lordstown Motors Endurance All-Electric Pickup Truck at Lordstown Motors:
“Today’s reveal of the Lordstown Motors Endurance All-Electric Pickup Truck underscores the hope and excitement about this new investment in the Mahoning Valley. I want to thank Vice President Pence for attending today’s event and the administration’s support for Lordstown. I’ve been proud to work closely with the community leaders in Lordstown and administration officials to help make today possible. I believe that Lordstown Motors can be a significant economic engine for the Mahoning Valley and create much-needed jobs for the world-class workforce there. I remain hopeful that GM will invest in this new venture to help ensure its success for the people in this region.”
Portman, Fischer, Lankford Introduce Bill to Reduce Regulatory Burden to Give Job Creators Freedom to Invest & Hire New Workers
Senators Rob Portman, Deb Fischer (R-NE), and James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the Unfunded Mandates Accountability and Transparency Act (UMATA). The bill will reduce excessive unfunded government mandates on job creators, giving them greater freedom to invest in their companies and hire new workers. When the federal government imposes unnecessary and burdensome regulations, it undermines employers’ ability to hire more workers, and makes it harder for American workers to find jobs. This legislation will free employers from stifling government mandates and help them create more jobs and compete globally. Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) are leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“I have been proud to work to reduce the burden of unfunded mandates from the federal government on our society since 1995, when I sponsored the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act in the House. As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, reducing the regulatory burden on our employers is more important than ever, which is why I’m pleased to introduce the Unfunded Mandates Accountability and Transparency Act to do just that,” said Portman. “This bill engages the public in finding creative, effective solutions that impose fewer burdens on state, local, and Tribal governments, as well as the private sector. More effective, efficient regulations will allow employers invest more in their companies, bolster our economic recovery, and help get Americans back to work. I urge my colleagues to join Senators Fischer, Lankford and me in supporting in this bill.”
Portman, Schatz Introduce Amendment to Assess & Address Rising Threat of Deepfakes
Senators Rob Portman and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Deepfake Report Act as an amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The measure directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct an annual study of deepfakes and other types of similar content. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. The legislation requires DHS to assess the technology used to generate deepfakes, the uses of deepfakes by foreign and domestic entities, and available countermeasures to deepfakes, to help policymakers and the public better understand the threats deepfakes pose to our national security and election security. The Deepfake Report Act passed the Senate in October 2019 as a stand-alone bill.
“As AI rapidly becomes an intrinsic part of our economy and society, AI-based threats, such as deepfakes, have become an increasing threat to our democracy,” said Senator Portman. “Addressing the challenges posed by deepfakes will require policymakers to grapple with important questions related to civil liberties and privacy. This bill prepares our country to answer those questions and address concerns by ensuring we have a sound understanding of this issue. As concerns with deepfakes grow by the day, I urge my Senate colleagues to support this bipartisan amendment.”
Portman, Brown Introduce Amendment to Increase Funding for A1 Stryker Vehicles
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requesting an additional $375 million in funding to address a critical unfunded Army requirement to field 60 additional A1 variant Stryker Vehicles for front line infantry brigades. This funding would also allow the Army to meet the requirement of fully fielding brigades of 336 vehicles with new, lethal 30mm cannon upgrades. These vehicles will be manufactured at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima in order to ensure that our forward deployed soldiers have vehicles with the most cutting-edge capabilities. The NDAA includes $847 million for upgrading Stryker Vehicles and $392 million for modifying the Stryker A1 Vehicles but does not include this additional funding needed in order for the Army to achieve its readiness needs.
“It is vital that the Army receives this funding in order to fulfill the military requirements of full fielding the Stryker Vehicles with the most up-to-date upgrades in order to keep troops on the frontlines safe,” said Portman. “This authorization will help provide long-term stability to the industrial base and ensure our soldiers are rapidly provided with the most capable and survivable vehicle coming off the line. These vehicles are produced at Lima’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center and this amendment would ensure more good-paying jobs for its world-class workforce.”
Portman, Brown Introduce NDAA Amendment to Require DOD Reporting of Cybersecurity Partnerships with Academia
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced an amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to support cybersecurity initiatives between the Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. academic institutions. Specifically, this amendment would require DOD to report on their efforts to work with consortia of academic researchers in the development of cybersecurity capabilities for DOD systems. The University of Cincinnati (UC) is a member of one such consortium.
“Cyberspace is increasingly becoming the battlefield of the Information Age, and it is incumbent upon the Department of Defense to develop its capacity to defend U.S. national security interests in this dynamic frontier,” said Portman. “By partnering with universities like the University of Cincinnati, which already conducts important work in partnership with the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, our military will be able to accelerate that process and ensure it is better prepared to defend against cyberattacks on DOD systems. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this amendment, which will require DOD to report on their efforts to work with university consortia to ensure DOD capabilities are secure.”
Portman, Bennet Introduce Amendment to Strengthen Military's AI Capabilities
Senator Rob Portman, co-founder of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced an amendment to the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require the Department of Defense to report to Congress on ways to strengthen ties between the Joint AI Center and each of the military services.
“It is essential that we endow our armed forces with the technical skill and proficiency necessary to take full advantage of next generation capabilities like artificial intelligence.” said Portman. “This amendment to the NDAA would take important steps towards that goal by facilitating stronger civilian cooperation with DoD while also sending a clear message that Congress is serious about leadership in the field of AI.”
Portman, Bennet Introduce NDAA Amendment for Report on AI Standards of the Defense Industrial Base
Senators Rob Portman and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced an amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) to report on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) standards related to the country’s defense industrial base. This will help policymakers understand the national security aspects of AI standards setting.
“As the co-chair of the Senate AI Caucus, I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan amendment to ensure we are cognizant of the standards the U.S. is setting with regards to AI competition with China,” said Portman. “This amendment would push the Department of Defense to be forward-thinking about their investments in AI and how to strategically work with the public and private sector to develop and mature our own capabilities.”
Portman Introduces Bipartisan NDAA Amendment to Support Dependents of Fallen and Injured Servicemembers
Senators Rob Portman and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the bipartisan Leasing Relief for Dependents of Fallen Heroes and Injured Servicemembers Act as an amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to allow adult dependents of deceased or catastrophically injured servicemembers to terminate residential and car leases without financial penalty under certain conditions. The bipartisan measure is the modified companion to legislation introduced by Representatives Brad Wenstrup and Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and passed the House of Representatives in February.
“Military dependents dealing with the death or catastrophic disability of a loved one as the result of their service should have the ability to end home and car leases without incurring financial penalties,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan amendment to the NDAA, which has veteran support, will provide much-needed relief for these families. I encourage my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting this common-sense measure.”
At Hearing, Portman Questions Customs & Border Protection Official on the Impact of COVID-19, Safety for Unaccompanied Minors & Implementation of STOP Act to Combat Drug Influx
At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Portman asked a Customs & Border Protection official about how CBP is working to address the drug trafficking crisis at the southern border and through the United States Postal Service, and what more the federal government can do to help address this crisis. Portman’s bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which become law in 2018, is working to help reduce the supply of fentanyl shipped into Ohio through the U.S. Postal Service. The witnesses confirmed that the STOP Act was making a difference. As the chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), Portman conducted an 18-month investigation into this issue and released a stunning bipartisan report detailing how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States through the U.S. Postal Service. The STOP Act closes this loophole by requiring 100 percent advanced electronic data on all packages coming from China. Currently, the United States Postal Service is not meeting the requirement.
Portman also asked officials how they are working to ensure the safety of unaccompanied children at the southern border. Since 2015, PSI has been conducting oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program to place unaccompanied minors with sponsors in this country following reports that HHS placed eight unaccompanied minors with human traffickers who put those children into forced labor in Ohio. PSI has documented its findings in two reports, one released on August 15, 2018 and the other on January 28, 2016. In 2019, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation – the Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act – which requires HHS to better care for and keep track of unaccompanied minors and ensure they appear at their immigration court proceedings.
Portman also highlighted the importance of implementing the E-Verify system in order to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Portman introduced the E-Verify Act last year to require employers to use an electronic employment verification (E-Verify) system in an effort to prevent fraudulent documentation. Currently, the E-Verify program is an optional pilot program for most employers, and it has significant limitations—primarily, it does not sufficiently validate the authenticity of the identity documents new employees present to their employers.
Portman, Brown Introduce Amendment to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced an amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits. The amendment is based on the senators’ bipartisan bill, the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act, which is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a central Ohio veteran who passed away in May and was exposed to burn pits while deployed.
“We owe our servicemembers a great debt of gratitude for the safety and freedom we enjoy every day. It is our duty to stand by them and ensure transparency in the tracking of illnesses connected to their service, specifically burn pit exposure. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan measure requiring VA to submit regular reports on veterans exposed to burn pits. The reports will provide valuable data on patterns of medical diagnoses and associated disability claims so we can better understand the impact of burn pits exposure and hold VA accountable for the medical treatment and benefits to which veterans may be entitled,” said Portman.
Portman, Durbin Introduce Amendment to Senate’s FY 2021 NDAA Welcoming Ukraine Into the NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partnership Program
Senators Rob Portman and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 NDAA congratulating Ukraine on their acceptance into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Enhanced Opportunity Partnership program. The North Atlantic Council voted on June 12, 2020 to recognize Ukraine into the EOP program, joining Australia, Finland, Sweden, Georgia and Jordan. This acceptance is a crucial step towards Ukraine achieving full NATO membership and will ensure Ukraine can maintain and deepen cooperation with NATO Allies and Partners. This partnership was granted in recognition of Ukraine’s continued dedication to defense reform and their contribution to Allied operations, to include Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as NATO Response Force and NATO exercises. It will provide Ukraine with enhanced access to interoperability programs and exercises to increase their capabilities and ability to operate with NATO partners.
“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan amendment recognizing that the North Atlantic Council has accepted Ukraine as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner,” said Portman. “Ukraine’s status as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner is a recognition of the tremendous sacrifices made by the brave men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces in support of NATO operations and the dedication of the Ukrainian government to continue to make serious structural military reforms. I strongly support Ukraine’s NATO integration and eventual full partnership and I will continue to advocate on their behalf. ”
Portman, Cardin Introduce New Tax Incentive to Revitalize Distressed Homes
Senators Rob Portman and Ben Cardin (D-MD) both members of the Senate Finance Committee, have introduced legislation (S. 4073) to revitalize housing in distressed neighborhoods in Ohio, Maryland, and nationwide. Currently, development lacks in some urban and rural areas because the cost of purchasing and renovating homes is greater than the value of the sale price of homes. The Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA) will create a federal tax credit to cover the “appraisal gap” that prevents single-family housing development in many low-income neighborhoods. Joining as cosponsors of the legislation are Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senate Finance Committee members Todd Young (R-IN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tim Scott (R-SC).
The NHIA could lead to the revitalization of 500,000 homes and create $100 billion in development revenue over the next 10 years. NHIA will require that homes constructed or revitalized under the program must be sold to homeowners making less than 140 percent of the area median income. This ensures that improved housing directly benefits members of the communities targeted by the new tax credit. In addition, homeowners receiving funds for rehabilitation of their property must remain in their homes for five years or face a penalty.
“Even prior to the pandemic, when America was experiencing one of the strongest economies on record, highlighted by consistent job creation and wage growth, there were certain geographic areas and vulnerable populations that suffered due to a lack of opportunity and investment. These areas were often marked by stagnant housing markets, foreclosures, and blighted or vacant homes,” Senator Portman said. “The Neighborhood Homes Investment credit established in this bipartisan bill is directly targeted at bringing new investment to these neighborhoods, providing a new tool in our economic toolkit that pairs well with the New Markets Tax Credit, Opportunity Zones, and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. This new incentive will help thousands of vulnerable Ohioans in struggling neighborhoods by revitalizing communities and generating new opportunities for their residents.”
Friday, June 26, 2020
Portman, Murphy Introduce Amendment to Strengthen Global Engagement Center Efforts to Counter Foreign Propaganda, Disinformation
U.S. Senators Portman and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced an amendment to the Senate’s FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to strengthen the Global Engagement Center’s (GEC) efforts to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. This amendment would first eliminate the 8 year sunset provision in the authorizing legislation in the FY 2017 NDAA. It would also allow the GEC to have more flexible hiring authority for the critical experts they need to conduct their vital missions. Portman and Murphy authored the legislation signed into law in December 2016 to establish the GEC.
“The GEC plays in a vital role in countering the foreign disinformation being waged against us by our foreign adversaries,” said Portman. “This amendment will ensure the GEC will continue to operate and have the operational stability and experts necessary to conduct its important work. As foreign propaganda and disinformation threats grow by the day, I urge my Senate colleagues to support this bipartisan amendment.”
Portman, Bennet Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Military’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy
U.S. Senators Portman and Michael Bennet (D-CO) announced the Artificial Intelligence Standards and National Security Act, standalone legislation to strengthen artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and take steps toward developing an AI strategy for standards setting at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
“As co-chair of the Senate AI Caucus, I believe it is important that Congress demonstrates leadership in the field of artificial intelligence,” said Portman. “That’s why I’m pleased to support these bipartisan legislative initiatives to push the Department of Defense to be forward-thinking about their investments in AI and facilitate stronger civilian cooperation with DoD so that our military is equipped to respond to the challenges of today and tomorrow. It essential for our national security that those who defend our nation are able to fully understand the potential risks and benefits of AI and put this revolutionary technology to use.”
In Xenia, Portman Visits The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
Portman Highlights Senate Passage of His Bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act Legislation to Address Deferred Maintenance
Portman visited the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument to see firsthand the site's deferred maintenance needs and to discuss Senate passage of his bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act to address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service. The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument has unmet maintenance needs, including rehabilitating the parking lot and shed, and repairing the banks of the creek at the site.
"I’m glad I was able to visit the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument to see firsthand the maintenance needs as well as discussing the recently passed bipartisan legislation that would address these projects," said Portman. “I’m pleased that the Senate passed my bill, the Restore Our Parks Act, as part of passed the Great American Outdoors Act last week and I urge the House to pass this legislation as soon as possible. The Restore Our Parks Act will create jobs and rebuild our national parks infrastructure by addressing the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national park sites throughout the country, including more than $100 million in maintenance backlog in Ohio’s eight national parks. We must do our part to preserve these national treasures for generations to come.”
Photos can be found here.
Portman Visits Tipp City Business, Highlights the Benefits of Paycheck Protection Program
Today, Portman visited Bruns General Contracting and met with company leadership and employees to discuss the benefits of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan made possible thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act, which Senator Portman supported and was signed into law by President Trump. Bruns Construction Enterprises, an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), received a PPP loan and was able to keep workers on payroll and continue operations at their Bruns General Contracting division and area job sites.
“I had a great visit this afternoon with the leadership and employees at Bruns General Contracting to discuss how the PPP helped small businesses across the country survive the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. This pandemic is not just a serious health crisis, but it is also having a serious impact on Ohio’s economy. I was pleased to hear that Bruns was able to use their PPP loan to help keep their workers on payroll, with their health care and other benefits, during this unprecedented time,” said Portman. “One of the big goals of the CARES Act was to ensure our businesses can stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. The fact that millions of American small businesses have taken advantage of this important benefit is further proof that the program is working.”
The Paycheck Protection Program, created in the CARES Act, provides loans that effectively become grants if the borrower satisfies the forgiveness requirements in their spending of the loan proceeds. To receive full forgiveness, the borrower must spend no less than 60 percent of the loan proceeds on payroll costs and no more than 40 percent of the proceeds on non-payroll covered costs.
Photos from the visit are here.
In these times of endless rancor, stark philosophical divides, and relentless tribal politics, it is difficult to get our leaders in Congress to agree on much of anything. Regardless of the issue, the battle lines are usually drawn, the long knives come out, and the verbal howitzers deliver endless volleys. And little or nothing gets done.
A rare and much-celebrated exception to that pattern of incompatibility took place recently when the Senate, in a 73-25 vote that is as powerful an endorsement as we are likely to see for any bill that involves funding, passed the Great American Outdoors Act. The name might sound a little bombastic, but as legislation-naming goes, it is a lot more accurate than some of the pharisaical titles we have had forced on us in the recent past.
This piece of paper lumps two major initiatives into one convenient basket — the full backing of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and money to address the mountain of deferred maintenance that sits on the desks of leadership with the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The magic number at this point is $9.5 billion going to that backlog of maintenance over the next five years.
President Trump has already voiced support for the bill in the past, and now it is up to the House of Representatives to not muddy the waters by attaching a bunch of unrelated pet-cause funding and bailout schemes to the legislation. A clean water and clean parks bill should be kept free of such detritus.
The bill has the support of a huge coalition of conservation, environmental, and sportsmen's groups. Outside Magazine reported that the current tab for “deferred maintenance” in our national park and public lands system is around $20 billion. West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, one of the bill’s architects, said the measure was "one of the most important things we've done in the conservation world in the last 50 years” and that might not be political hyperbole, as the need is unprecedented.
"Park roads and bridges are collapsing, water systems are failing, and visitor centers are crumbling," Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association, told USA Today.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who helped introduce the legislation back in March and has been one of the bill’s most vocal supporters, said that as the country comes out of the crippling impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the timing of the passage is important.
“The Great American Outdoors Act will help preserve our treasured lands for future generations to enjoy and provide an economic boost for communities in Ohio and throughout nation at a time when it is needed most,” he said.
Sen. Portman cited a recent National Park Service study that showed visitor spending in communities near national parks across the country in 2019 resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 340,500 jobs. He said additional studies indicate that passage of this legislation will result in supporting another 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years as work begins to address that huge backlog of delayed maintenance and the restoration of our national parks infrastructure. He expects more than $100 million to be spent on deferred maintenance at Ohio’s eight national park sites.
Bill Stanley, Ohio State Director for The Nature Conservancy, called the bill an “enormous opportunity to protect America’s most important and beloved lands and waters” while thanking Sen. Portman and other Congressional leaders. Stanley said the funding mechanism in the measure would continue to secure royalties from offshore oil and gas revenues to preserve and protect Ohio’s Wayne National Forest, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, East Fork State Park, the James Garfield National Historic Site, and some 1,500 other sites in Ohio.
Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, said the funds allocated in the bill would repair damaged roadways that negatively impact fish habitat.
“We can’t overstate the importance of the funding provided for the maintenance backlog, which will help fix the thousands of miles roads bleeding sediment into our rivers and streams and replace undersized culverts that block fish migration,” he said. “This upkeep, while not flashy, is a critical part of the stewardship of our public lands.”
Like many other leaders in the conservation movement, Wood urged the House to get the bill to President Trump’s desk. “The sooner this legislation gets enacted, the better off our outdoor traditions will be, now and for future generations,” he said.
Becky Humphries, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation, shared that sentiment and sense of urgency.
“Ensuring permanent backing by Congress and providing dedicated funding to ease the backlog of much-needed infrastructure improvements is a bright light in an otherwise dark time in our history,” she said. “Easy access to the outdoors is important to the health and spirit of Americans, and this action will allow improvements to roads and other points of access.”
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is in line for even more investment. This time it involves a fuel system. The Senate’s 2021 National Defense Authorization Act includes $23.5 million for a hydrant fuel system for the Defense Logistics Agency at Wright-Patt.
The project will replace the aging fuel system and will bring it into compliance with Department of Defense’s standards. This funding will help to facilitate the DLA’s fuel operations and make them more efficient.
“This funding will support a new hydrant fuel system to refuel our aircraft and support the mission of the Defense Logistics Agency,” said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “I believe it will make a difference to our Airmen and Air Force Civilians at Wright-Patt and to our troops around the world who rely on the DLA for their equipment and resources. DLA plays a critical role in helping to ensure our brave men and women on the frontlines have the resources they need.”
Wright-Patt, which has 30,000 employees, generates an economic impact of $15.54 billion on the Dayton region.